Sermon Audio – God is Love…What are We?
Audio recording of my sermon at Bellevue Church of Christ from Sunday Morning, July 24, 2016.
The lesson was entitled, God is Love…What are We?, and was a study of I John 4, with an emphasis on verse 12 “No one has ever seen God.” I had a lot of sleepless nights preparing for the sermon, because I really wanted to address how horribly we treat each other as Christians sometimes, and knew this would step on a lot of toes (including mine).
In I John 4:7-21, the apostle digs deeper into a topic he has already covered extensively: a Christian’s love of their brother. This was first introduced as a test of being in the light in 2:7-11. The command to love was also identified as a test of being born of God in 3:11-24. In chapter four, the love of fellow believers is described as representation of the Father’s being and activity (“God is Love” vv. 8, 16)
In preparing for the sermon this morning, I spent a lot of time thinking about the ways we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. This led me to ask myself the following question…Why is it that In spite of all the anti-Christian sentiment that is pervasive in this country, I receive more direct persecution from fellow-Christians over my strongly held beliefs than anyone else? On the surface it may sound like an absurd question, but I truly believe it is accurately stated.
We expect the world to mock us. We expect non-Christians to persecute us for our beliefs. However, when these things come from inside the church, or the Christian community at large, it can feel like a blindside attack. Some of this persecution might seem fairly trivial, because it stems from different interpretations of the Bible, or accusations that I am “too conservative,” “too literal,” “legalistic,” or something similar. I don’t like these types of attacks, but understand that it comes with the territory of holding a conservative view of scripture.
However, some attacks from fellow Christians go beyond simple differences in interpretion and get more to differences in priority. For example, sometimes U.S. citizenship can supersede heavenly citizenship in priority, causing Christians to attack others in the church who are viewed as not doing enough for their country. How does this benefit the kingdom of God? What does this communicate to the world?
Now if I turn the tables on this question, and look at myself, what do I see? How do I treat my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I any better than those who attack me? I am humbled by John saying in v. 12 that “No one has ever seen God.” He said the same thing in his gospel in 1:18 as it relates to God being made known through the Son who came in the flesh. However, I think John’s intent here is different. The Son is no longer on the earth with us, and he is emphasizing that it is now through the love within the community of believers that God is made known to the world.
How does my own love of fellow believers serve to represent God to the world?